Eight things we learned as Prince Charles turned DJ on Classic FM

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·7-min read
Britain's Prince Charles wears headphones as he learns how to scratch and fade with a turntable while he tours an employment skills workshop in Toronto on May 22, 2012. The royal couple is on a four-day visit to Canada to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.      AFP PHOTO/Paul Chiasson/Pool        (Photo credit should read PAUL CHIASSON/AFP/GettyImages)
Prince Charles learning to fade records in Canada in 2012. (Getty Images)

Prince Charles has revealed personal and family stories as he took to the airwaves for two nights running - and became a DJ on Classic FM.

Charles, 71, took part in an interview with presenter Alan Titchmarsh on Bank Holiday Monday, 25 May and then chose his own favourite pieces and hosted a solo two hour show on Tuesday, 26 May.

His choices and his stories revealed a lot about him, and he gave his voice and platform to support artists and musicians who have seen their livelihoods affected by the closure of venues during the coronavirus pandemic.

Here are some things we learned about the heir to the throne during the shows.

He’s heartbroken by the closure of venues

At the end of Tuesday’s show he said: “It is heartbreaking to think of all the hard work that has gone into planning this year’s concert seasons, the summer music festivals, the opera and ballet productions around the country, all of which have had to be cancelled.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 12: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales meets cast members as he attends the world premiere of 'The Cunning Little Vixen', in honour of his 70th birthday at the Royal Opera House on February 12, 2019 in London,England. (Photo by Gareth Fuller - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Prince Charles meets cast members at the world premiere of 'The Cunning Little Vixen' at the Royal Opera House. (Getty Images)

“You can imagine the effect on the lives and livelihoods of all those incredibly gifted musicians, singers and dancers whom we are so fortunate to have in large numbers in this country. My heart goes out to them in these anxious times.

“Now I have no doubt when we are finally allowed to enjoy concerts and theatrical performances once again, our brilliant orchestral players, singers and dancers will be ready to thrill us all, their talents possibly shining all the brighter because of their enforced silence and absence.

“I’m sure they know how deeply they touch people’s lives, so this entire programme is dedicated to them as a tribute to the sheer joy and solace they bring us all.”

He once converted a police bodyguard to classical music

Charles told this story to Titchmarsh on Monday night saying: “I’m accompanied by a kind policemen who looks after me all the time, wherever I go, and I used to play Wagner, some of the operas, on the CD thing in the car.

“And the person I had with me at the time long ago had never heard Wagner before in his life, but because I played it on various occasions in the car, he grew, can you believe it, to love it so much that he then became a Wagner fan, having never heard it before and presumably having also thought, ‘Well, it’s not for me.’

“So it is familiarity, I think, which in this case doesn’t breed contempt. It breeds real devotion, I’ve found.”

His grandmother started his love of classical music

His grandmother, the Queen Mother, took him to a performance when he was just seven years old, and that sparked a long term love of classical music.

Read more: A photo of Prince George and children's artwork: What's on Prince Charles's desk

Prince Charles follows his grandmother, the Queen Mother, to their car after watching a matinee performance of 'The Fountain of Bakhchisarai' by the Bolshoi Theatre Ballet of Moscow at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.   (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
Prince Charles with his grandmother the Queen Mother after watching a matinee performance of 'The Fountain of Bakhchisarai' by the Bolshoi Theatre Ballet of Moscow at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. (PA Images)

He said: “I suspect the first time I really became aware of it was being taken by my grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, to Covent Garden aged seven, I think, it must have been in 1956 to see the Bolshoi Ballet perform. It was their first visit to the United Kingdom and I shall never forget that incredible occasion. I was completely inspired by it.”

He might take Prince George to see a classical performance

Charles, a grandfather of four now, suggested his own experiences of performance at a young age should be replicated by other grandparents.

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Prince George and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge during the Trooping of the Colour Ceremony in London. (Photo by Zak Hussein/Corbis via Getty Images)
Charles might be hoping to take his grandson to the opera as his grandmother did. (Getty Images)

He was taken to an event at seven, and his oldest grandson, Prince George, will turn seven this year.

Charles said: “It's so important, I think, for grandparents or other relations to take children - at about the age of seven - to experience some form of the arts in performance.”

Maybe there’s a trip on the cards for the prince once the lockdown is over.

He chose some of the music for William and Kate’s wedding

Charles said he loves organising music for occasions, particularly weddings.

He told Titchmarsh: “I love trying to organise some interesting, I hope, pieces of music for certain occasions, particularly for weddings if people want.

Read more: Prince Charles launches online memorial for Britain's coronavirus victims

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge greet well-wishers from the balcony at Buckingham Palace on April 29, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by George Pimentel/WireImage)
William and Kate took some suggestions for music from Charles for their wedding. (WireImage)

“I know my eldest son was quite understanding and was perfectly happy for me to suggest a few pieces for their wedding.

“I hope that gave some people pleasure, but it's rather fun having orchestras in for great occasions like that, and why not suggest a few pieces occasionally? Anyway, I do enjoy it.”

He commissioned a classical piece for his grandmother

After the Queen Mother died in 2002, Charles commissioned a piece of music to remember her, which was played in full on the Tuesday show.

1969:  Prince Charles arm in arm with Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (1900 - 2002) at Sandringham. Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Margaret, Princess Anne and Prince Andrew all walk behind them.  (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
Prince Charles with Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother at Sandringham in 1969. (Getty Images)

The piece was played by Lang Lang and the London Chamber Orchestra, and Charles said: “It’s very dear to my heart, not least because I commissioned it.

“It’s by Nigel Hess, who has written so many well-known film and television scores as well as pieces for the concert hall.

“I asked him to write a piano concerto in memory of my grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, and when we talked about the structure of the piece, we decided each movement should reflect an important aspect of her character.

“The smile, the love, the sense of duty, which remained deep right to the very end.”

Introducing the piece he made sure to tell listeners his “darling wife” is their patron.

One of his wedding pieces was discovered at an unusual place

Charles recalled first hearing the Russian Creed, set to music by Gretchaninov at the funeral of Robert Runcie, who had been the Archbishop of Canterbury, which was held in 2000.

Read more: Charles and Camilla mark 15 years of marriage: Their love story

Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, and Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall, leave St George's Chapel.   (Photo by Bob Collier - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Charles first heard one of their wedding pieces at a funeral. (Getty Images)

He was so moved by the piece, that he had it played at his wedding to Camilla, five years later. He said it moved many of those who attended the ceremony, including some who would not normally react that way.

Ekaterina Semenchuk was flown over specially from St Petersburg to sing the creed on their wedding day, and he said the music filling St George’s Chapel was something he would never forget.

He won the praise of Classic FM listeners

The royal would probably expect to find himself in friendly territory presenting on Classic FM, and many listeners tweeted to voice their enjoyment of the shows.

Composer Thomas Hewitt Jones said: “Kudos to @ClassicFM for such lovely programmes hosted by Prince Charles. A genuine passionate support for the arts, and especially music. He knows several of @RoyalOperaHouse orchestra by name and has said hello to my dad and colleagues by name when he goes. How lovely is that?”

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One said: “So lovely to hear some different music being played on @ClassicFM instead of the usual CD on loop. Hats off and new found respect for Prince Charles, airing his worries for all musicians who are struggling at the moment.”

Another even suggested renaming the station “Charles FM” in recognition of his music choices.

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A Royal Appointment with His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales is available to listen again on Classic FM player.